Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
NUMBER 12, PAGE 26-27

The Hope Of Israel

Harry E. Ozment

Three days after Paul had been conducted under guard to the city of Rome, he called the chief men of the Jews in that city to come unto him. In Acts 28:20, we read his reason for doing this: "For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain." Paul evidently thought enough about the "hope of Israel" to teach it to the Jews. We likewise should be interested enough in that hope to study some truths concerning it.

There is a great deal of confusion about what the hope of Israel really is. A person's concept of that hope depends upon his definition of "Israel":

(1) FLESHLY ISRAEL. A great number of people in the religious world today think of Israel as a fleshly, physical kingdom which once existed hundreds of years ago and which will once again be established in Palestine when Jesus comes the second time. Some of these religious zealots excitedly call attention to the familiar words of Matthew 24 ("And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars") and then claim that recent conflicts in the Middle East are in fulfillment of those inspired words. Each skirmish on a Middle East battlefield brings on a new flurry of speculation along these lines.

That there was once a fleshly Israel which was in covenant relationship with God, no one will deny. Such a nation was first promised to Abraham in Gen. 12:2: "And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing." (cf. Gen. 13:15-16; 15:5; 16:10; 17:2,16; 18:18; 22:17; 26:4; 28:4,14; 32:12; 35:9-11) Accompanying this promise, God also promised a great land for this nation: "And the Lord appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land." (Gen. 12:7; cf. Gen. 12:2; 13:14-17; 15:7,12-21; 17:2; 24:7; 28:4,14) The promise of a "great nation" was fulfilled in fleshly Israel, for we read in Exodus 1:7 (about 350 years after Israel entered Egypt): "And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty." Under the leadership of Joshua, this great nation crossed the Jordan River and conquered the land of Canaan with the help of God. When this was accomplished, God had fulfilled his "land" promise to Israel: "And the Lord gave unto Israel all the land which he swore to give unto their fathers; and they possessed it, and dwelt therein." (Josh. 21:43) This, then, was the reason Joshua could say to the people: "And, behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth: and ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass upon you, and not one thing hath failed thereof " (Josh. 23:14) The land promises made in the prophecy of Ezekiel (e.g., Ezek. 34:11-31; 37:1-28; 39:21-29) were fulfilled when Israel returned to its land from captivity (as told in Ezra and Nehemiah). It seems strange to me that religious theorists today would try to make the Almighty of Heaven into a small god that has been unable to fulfill his promise to fleshly Israel in thousands of years! The Bible states that God always has been and still is true to His word: "For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us." (II Cor. 1:20; cf. I Cor. 1:9; 10:13; I Thess. 5:24; II Thess. 3:3; Tit. 1:2; Heb. 6:18; II Peter 3:8-9; I John 1:9) Joshua stated that God had indeed fulfilled all promises made to Israel. Friend, whom are you going to believe — God or man? As Paul said, "Let God be true, but every man a liar." (Rom. 3:4)

The fact of the matter is that fleshly Israel no longer is in covenant relationship with God (i.e., as a nation in and of itself). There is no promise of God to them today. Jesus prophesied concerning this very matter in Matt. 21:43: "Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth fruit thereof." Paul explains God's rejection of fleshly Israel in Israel in Romans 9-11. In Rom. 9:1-5, Paul speaks of the tragedy of Israel's rejection. Later in the ninth chapter, Paul shows why Israel was rejected by God: "But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone." (vv. 31-32) All of the prophets had spoken concerning the Christ, for God had designed the law of Moses to bring the Jews to the righteousness that was in Christ (Rom. 10:4; Gal. 3:24). However, the Jews became very materialistic in their concepts; as a result, they wrested each scripture which spoke of the King to come and interpreted those passages to mean an earthly king on an earthly throne over an earthly kingdom. Of course, fleshly Israel was without excuse in their ignorance, for God had said of King Coniah: "Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah." (Jer. 22:30) According to the word of God, therefore, King Coniah was to be the last king over the earthly kingdom of Israel on an earthly throne. It had never been God's will for Christ to become an earthly king. However, because He would not become an earthly king, Christ was totally rejected by the Jews and finally crucified. Thus, Paul said of fleshly Israel: "They stumbled at that stumblingstone," which was Christ. How pitiful! Yet, many are rejecting Christ today as the Reigning Monarch of His Kingdom-Church, and instead are looking for the Messiah to reign on an earthly throne sometime in the future. I fear that God will one day say to these people as he said of fleshly Israel as they rejected Christ: "All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people." (Rom. 10:21)

(2) SPIRITUAL ISRAEL. When God rejected fleshly Israel, He elected spiritual Israel. Paul also speaks of this mater in Romans 9-11. Paul shows that there is another Israel beside fleshly Israel: "For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel." (Rom. 9:6) Paul explains the composition of spiritual Israel in Rom. 9:23-24: "And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?" This is thee Israel which is in covenant relationship with God today — the Israel which is composed of "spiritual Jews." Paul said, "For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God." (Rom. 2:28-29; cf. Rom. 4:11-12; Gal. 3:6-7; 26-29; 6:12-16; Phil. 3:3; Col. 2:11) Therefore Israel today is a spiritual kingdom, with Christ as its spiritual king reigning now on a heavenly throne. Those who are Christians are citizens of this great spiritual kingdom.

Therefore, the hope of spiritual Israel must be spiritual in its nature. Paul stated in Eph. 4:4, "Ye are called in one hope of your calling." He explains what the object of this one great hope of Christians actually is in Tit. 1:2: "In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began." This wonderful hope of eternal life is valuable to the Christian — so much more so than any earthly hope could possibly be: "By two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us' Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil." (Heb. 6:18-19) Brethren, let us rivet our direction upon that one hope. Let not the vanities of earth cause us to steer our vision upon an inferior hope, which is really no hope whatever! Rather, let us remember forever those immortal words of the apostle Paul: "Be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven." (Col. 1:23)

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